The Philadelphia Senior Judge Benjamin Lerner said low pay has led to a shortage of lawyers willing to take cases that can't be handled by the Defender Association of Philadelphia, reported the Legal Intelligencer. He said in a 20-page report that the pay is "grossly inadequate" and that the city of Philadelphia should spend over $300,000 more per year paying death penalty lawyers.
"The adverse of consequence of this lawyer shortage is clear," Lerner said. "First, two few lawyers on the appointment list means that each of these lawyers will be asked to serve in too many capital cases at that time. ... Furthermore ... when scheduling homicide cases for trial, First Judicial District judges have found themselves increasingly competing for the same shrinking pool of lawyers. Delays in scheduling homicide trials now are usually driven by lawyers' unavailability rather than by judges' schedules."
Lerner said that the constitutionality of the pay must be determined on a case-by-case basis, not on a global basis. Lerner also wrote that private defense attorneys, who represent about 80 percent of the defendants charged with death-eligible murders, should be paid $90 per hour. According to the Legal Intelligencer, the city spent $200,000 for capital defense services in 2010, but raising the pay to $90 per hour would require the city to expend $340,000 more per year, according to Lerner's calculation.
Lerner also called upon the First Judicial District's Administrative Governing Board, which is made up of the president judges and administrative judges of the district's three courts, to jettison the current system. Lerner said a new system of pay should not differentiate between preparation and court time.
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